Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why do innocent people confess to crimes?

The answer may surprise you--misplaced faith in the justice system.

Douglas Starr author of a new article in the New Yorker,  "The Interview: Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions?", told Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air:

First of all, there's a group of people who confess falsely to something because there's something wrong with them. More than 200 people confessed to the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. ... But there are external reasons as well. ... If you're held in a room and you think there's no way out, but you're sure that the justice system will eventually exonerate you, you might actually confess just to get out of the situation. When you're in a situation where [your] denial is batted away no matter what you say and they start lowering the barrier of confession ... it becomes the easy way out. Interestingly, naive people, with faith in the justice system, tend to confess more because they're sure something will work out on the other side. The trouble is confession trumps everything. Even physical evidence will bend once somebody's confessed because confessions are so compelling.

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